2014 is already shaping up to be a good year for Seattle sports fans. The road to the Super Bowl runs through the rowdy-and-raw C-Link this month. The Mariners have already landed the off-season’s biggest free agent, Robinson Cano. Billionaire Chris Hansen continues his quest to catch the Predators – or any other NHL or NBA team – sooner rather than later. And the Huskies are on the cusp on exciting new era with innovative pigskin coach Chris Peterson.
How far away, then, 2008 must seem. That calendar year was arguably the most painful any sports town’s fanbase has ever had to endure. Every one of Seattle’s major teams – the Seahawks, Mariners, Sonics & Huskies – had losing seasons. Even worse, the Sonics put the sour cherry on top of the curdled sundae when they packed up reigning Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant and moved to Oklahoma City.
That apocalyptic 2008 inspired this empathetic sports fan to create the Sonic Award, which acknowledges – and pays tribute – to the citizens who’ve suffered the most over the past calendar year. Defining “suffering” isn’t necessarily as simple as identifying which town had the worst win percentage, though. Thanks to one last-second shot by Ray Allen in the Finals, San Antonio Spurs fans felt more pain in 2013 than anyone who roots for the Charlotte Bobcats (assuming anyone does, in fact, root for the Bobcats). In other words, it’s more just numbers: the Sonic Award is voted on by a blue-ribbon panel comprised of my head, heart, eyeballs and gut.
Before the presentation of the 2013 Sonic, here’s a look at the previous “winners”:
(Seahawks 4-12, head coach Mike Holmgren departs; Mariners 61-101, fire GM Bill Bavasi/manager John McLaren & release 1B Richie Sexson during the season; Sonics 20-62, depart for OKC with ROY Kevin Durant; U of Washington football 0-12; UW basketball 16-17)
(Browns 5-11; Cavaliers 66-16, get #1 seed in Eastern Conference, but lose to Orlando in Conference Finals; Indians 65-97; Ohio State basketball 22-11, #8 seed in NCAA tourney but lose to #9 Siena)
(Browns 5-11; Cavaliers 61-21, get #1 seed in Eastern Conference, but lose to Boston in 2nd-rd; LeBron James leaves Cavs for Miami; Indians 69-93; Ohio State football 12-1, but forced to vacate wins for NCAA violations; Ohio St basketball 29-8, #2 seed in NCAA tourney, but upset by #6 Tennessee)
2011 WASHINGTON, DC
(Skins 5-11; Nationals 80-81, Stephen Strasburg undergoes Tommy John surgery; Wizards 23-59; Capitals 107 pts, get #1 seed in Eastern Conference, but swept in 2nd-rd by Tampa Bay; Georgetown basketball 21-11, get #6 seed in NCAA tourney, upset by #11 VCU)
(Steelers 8-8, miss playoffs; Penguins 108 pts, humiliated in Rd One of Playoffs by arch rival Philadelphia; Pirates 79-83, collapse in second half of season – again, record 20th-straight losing season; Pitt basketball 22-17, misses NCAA tourney; Pitt football 6-7)
And to that ignominious list, we now add the 2013 Sonic Award winner…
New York City!!!
Wait. New York City?
But what about Atlanta? They had the disappointing Falcons and Georgia Bulldogs, another mediocre year from the Hawks, and another post-season flop by the Braves.
And what about Dallas? The Cowboys, Rangers, Mavs, and Stars all missed the post-season.
And Cleveland? What about Cleveland?! The Browns went 4-12, traded away the 2012 Draft’s 3rd overall pick, then fired head coach Rob Chudzinski after one season. The Tribe’s post-season lasted exactly nine innings thanks to Tampa Bay knocking them off in the wildcard game. The Cavs went 24-48, then re-hired Mike Brown. On purpose! The Buckeyes went 12-1, but blew a chance at the BCS title game with a loss to Michigan St in Big Ten Championship.
Yes, all worthy nominees… but ultimately, the choice here is based on the high quantity of mediocrity over those aforementioned quality-poor towns. NYC (and the tristate area) are represented by at least two teams in each of the four major sports. That means their citizens are mathematically twice as likely to root on a champion… and yet, none of their teams could even get past the second round of the playoffs. The Yankees’ best players were injured, suspended, retired, got fat(ter), or bailed via free agency. Meantime, the Yanks’ arch rival Red Sox won the World Series. Eli the Elite was outplayed by the pedestrian Geno Smith, who may or may not be replaced before the 2014 season starts. The Knicks and Nets had promising first halves in 2013, but let’s not Kidd ourselves: both are now abject embarrassments. The Blueshirts, Isles and Devils have settled into irrelevance. And speaking of irrelevant, there’s the St John’s basketball program. How is it possible, in the mecca for hoops, that no one can figure out how to recruit the area’s most talented kids to play for the Big East’s local representative?
In summation, NYC deserves this year’s Sonic:
2013 NEW YORK CITY
(Giants 7-9, Eli Manning throws 27 INTs; Jets 8-8; Yankees 85-77, lose 2B Robinson Cano/OF Curtis Granderson to free agency, Mariano Rivera retires, Alex Rodriguez suspended through ‘14; Mets 74-88, pitcher Johan Santana misses entire ’13 season with shoulder injury, pitcher Matt Harvey will miss ’14 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery; Knicks 54-28, lose in 2nd rd of playoffs to Indiana; Nets 49-33, lose in 1st rd to Chicago; two NBA teams a combined 19-42 in 2013-’14 season; Rangers 56 pts, lose in 2nd-rd of Stanley Cup Playoffs; Islanders 55 pts, lose in 1st-rd of Stanley Cup Playoffs; Devils 48 pts, miss playoffs; three NHL teams a combined 50-56-17 in 2013-’14; St Johns basketball17-16)
Better luck in 2014, Apple…